The Chinese fishing vessels may have left the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, but Sen. Gregorio Honasan does not consider it a victory for the Philippines.
Instead, Honasan sees the departure of the poachers with their illegal catch as a failure of the Philippines to protect its territorial integrity.
“We failed to enforce our laws,” Honasan told the Inquirer, pointing out that the Chinese fishing vessels left the shoal carrying poached giant clams, corals and live sharks.
DFA commended but …
Honasan commended the Department of Foreign Affairs for trying to resolve the standoff through diplomatic means.
But he warned that “this incident will not be the last.”
He urged the government to “take advantage of the lull” to review the Philippines’ standing security arrangements with other countries, particularly the United States.
Honasan urged a “performance audit” of such pacts as the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States to see if these were still relevant in cases such as the standoff at Scarborough Shoal.
“If they’re of no use to us, we might as well junk them,” Honasan said in Filipino.
He said the Chinese poachers got away because the Philippines had no capability to pursue foreign intruders or chase them to their own territory.
“Of course, if we ordered our Navy to pursue, they would have done so, but it would have been costly,” Honasan said. “Clearly, we would have to rely on our security partners.”
Next time, Honasan said, a better course of action would be for the government to immediately report incursions to the United States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), or the United Nations.
Not just domestic issue
The Philippines’ allies should take immediate action, he said.
“Remember that this is not just a domestic or a regional issue,” Honasan said. “Scarborough is a sea-lane and there are other stakeholders.”
He said that next time China throws its weight in the West Philippine Sea, the Asean should automatically weigh in.
That way, he said, China will understand that its claim should be revolved through the United Nations or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
President Aquino’s political adviser, Ronald Llamas, agreed, saying that while it is the military’s job to protect the Philippines’ territorial waters, the country should have robust backing from its allies.
Llamas cited the Asean agreement on a multilateral approach to dealing with conflicting territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines, he said, needs to call on that agreement for diplomatic support in dealing with China. With a report from Norman Bordadora
First posted 12:03 am | Sunday, April 15th, 2012